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This is a rant that will make me sound older than I am. I was going to say like my mother, but really it’s more like my grandmother. She would be well over 100 if she were alive today. But my mother came out of a childhood in the depression and the war years and into adulthood in the age of convenience, which she embraced. She doesn't get me the way my grandmother did.

I’ve never followed trends well. I just am who I am and every so often, I find myself in-step with the latest fashions in food and lifestyle. My family accuses me of trying to live on air—as if that’s a bad thing. My mother gave me money for clothes for my birthday once and told me I absolutely couldn’t spend it in a thrift store. I ended up with some nice stuff that she approved of, but lied about where I got it. That was before it became the in thing to thrift shop. There’s even a Billboard chart topper about it going around right now.

Also currently topping the charts:

We have had quite a few years of not having much money, but we have always had plenty of jars. One summer, we picked up dozens and dozens of canning jars (pints and quarts) at a garage sale at the end of the weekend for $20. So we not only use the jars for preserving food, but for storage of dry goods, liquids, and left overs. And we use them as drinking glasses for hot and cold beverages. For the hot beverages, we cut off the foot of a worn out sock and slip the glass into the cuff. Keeps the drink warmer longer and makes the glass easier to hold on to. We just couldn't see spending the money on drinking glasses, not even second hand vessels from the thrift shops.

Now drinking from preserving and jelly jars is the thing to do (is it a hipster sort of thing?). People are selling hand-knit cozies for the jars are all over Etsy. I'm not putting down the idea of moving to glass and away from plastics at all; it’s a healthy move. But canning and jelly jars are showing up in bars that already use glass and always have. They're showing up on speakers' tables and lecterns. If a canning jar replaces a plastic bottle of water, great, but I’ve seen jars replace a glass pitcher and a drinking glass, so what's the point?

Two years ago, home-canning enjoyed an uptick and canning classes that taught people how to use those jars for what they were intended for appeared everywhere. I didn't see as many on offer this past fall. Maybe someone got a bright idea about how to sell all those cases of jars sitting on store shelves.

Hanging out laundry is another thing that’s been around for ages, but trends up and down. It’s been great fodder for blogs, along with canning. I get needing how-tos on canning, but hanging up laundry? A few of my environmentally conscious friends have said, after giving air drying laundry a try that they found it really didn’t work or they didn’t really have time for it.

When I was in college, I met a woman who owned a store that sells spinning and weaving supplies. She told me that she managed to stay afloat because every few years hand crafts become the thing to do, and people invest heavily in equipment. She also did a fair trade in used equipment and hand-spun wool and hand-knitted garments. A yarn and knitting shop owner just recently told me something similar.

Look at Etsy. That handmade stuff is everywhere. The stuff you’re supposed to do yourself. Knitting a cozy for a canning jar/drinking glass is home project that you work on when you’re watching TV (and if you don’t like to knit, just cut the worn out foot off a sock and use the cuff).

My favorite is the rolls of cloth “paper towels.” I’ve been using torn up, worn out towels and shirts instead of the paper product for years. I once made a quilt out of old flannel shirts that someone I knew actually wore. Really, do you need to buy more stuff to use less and look like you are repurposing?

I'm glad when people plug into these skills and crafts and simpler ways of life, I really am. I’m certain that at least a small handful of people stick with what they try and that makes me feel better about the future of the planet. And I understand the do-it-yourself drive and truly appreciate that need to create that surfaces in all us. But if you're making a big cash investment for something that is all about simplicity and self-sufficiency, there's something not quite right with the picture. The notion of spending big to be green is off-kilter, too. Not in all cases, but in home craft, probably. And some of these skills, like a backyard veggie garden or chickens, require slight lifestyle adjustments like slowing your pace a little. You really have to embrace that notion or you get nowhere.

I'll continue to drink from canning and jelly jars because, as I've mentioned, we have tons of them. Someone even gave me one of those plastic disks that looks like the lid of a to-go coffee cup and fits under the ring of the canning lid. Nice idea and great to see a couple people with a startup idea get some traction—I’m all for people making extra cash on websites like Etsy. I’m just sometimes bewildered by the folks who are paying them for their goods.

In the end, I guess I shouldn’t complain too loudly. I pick up all kinds of things on the cheap: quilting fabric, sewing supplies, laundry pegs, canning jars. I even ended up with a free beehive last year that was full of honey, but empty of bees. This past spring, a swarm of honey bees moved in. I’m keeping an eye out for used beekeeping supplies.


Tue Feb 19, 2013 at  2:35 PM PT: Rescued and recommended?? This little thing? Shucks and thanks.

Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 2:40 PM PT: Did a little grammatical/typo editing since this simple thing is getting a bit of attention.

Originally posted to Elizaveta on Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 06:23 PM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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